This film is an amazing blend of a violent thriller and a weird dreamlike construction. The narrative circles back on itself in confusing ways and you get the impression that nothing is as it seems. The narrative does not make literal sense at all. Surely a man as badly wounded as Lee Marvin, even if he is as powerful as he is, cannot climb over the wire and escape from Alcatraz? Why would Reese rob “The Organisation” in order to buy his way back in? Is it all just a dream of revenge in a dying man’s brain? That would explain the strange flashbacks that run through the film – is Lynne’s flat furnished or not? Or why the seeming continuity lapses in the bottles in her bathroom exist. For all the violence and mayhem – Marvin just seems to get into fight situations, the killings of Brewster, Carter, and Stegman are done by a hired gun, Lynne commits suicide, Reese tumbles off a sky-scraper – the film is very calm. Marvin is a quiet force of nature, implacable in his search to recover the $93,000 that he is owed. He rarely even raises his voice.
It is not a pretty film. Marvin strides in his matter-of-fact way through parking lots under freeways, underground car parks, and around anonymous corporate buildings. It is gripping, intense and strange. It does not share its secrets with us and the ending is as enigmatic as anything in the rest of the film. Yost, revealed to be the Fairfax at the head of The Organisation, leaves Alcatraz with the gunman, leaving the money behind. Where is Walker? Is this the end of the dying man’s dream?